Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's the deal with genealogies?

Have you ever wondered about the significance or purpose of genealogies in the Bible, particularly the seemingly exhaustive ones that occur in the Old Testament? I'm sure most Bible readers have entertained thoughts of the actual usefulness or reason for these lists. In his biblical theology God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Dr. Jim Hamilton touches upon one of the purposes of these lists.

The nine chapters of names [1 Chronicles 1-9] present a full but concise summary of the Old Testament that goes from Adam to the exile. The impetus to compile genealogies and preserve "ancient words" (1 Chron. 4:22) springs from the promises made to Israel. Promises are made about a coming seed of the woman, so the descendants of the woman are carefully tracked and recorded. These genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-9 bear witness to the hope that God will raise up the individual seed of the woman who will deliver the collective seed of the woman through judgment on the head of the serpent and his seed. The making of a genealogy is an act of faith. And faith testifies that one believes that God will do what he has said, which gives him glory (Rom. 4:20). (340)

Dr. Hamilton brought to my attention something about the genealogies that I had never recognized before; they are a powerful and poignant demonstration of faith in God. These were written because people believed what God had promised. They are not extraneous accounts of over-zealous historians. They point to a faithful Father who is sovereign over history who will bring about his desired ends. And those desired ends are faith-engendering for his people. Keep these ideas in mind next time you are struggling through a long list of so-and-so begot so-and-so.

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